Best of 2019

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” – Ansel Adams

Another year has passed and my growth as a photographer continues. The photos I’ve selected over the past 12 months feel more modest to me than from previous years. In 2018 I held myself to a higher standard but in 2019 I think that may have infected my photography with hesitation and doubt.

Other YouTuber/Photographers have discussed the effects of negative feedback from the internet and how this impacts their work. In my case I don’t think it was negative feedback per se but lack of feedback or even more, lack of acknowledgement. Hoping for likes or followers on platforms like Instagram is never a good way to approach a hobby that was intended to be enjoyable and a means of escape.

It’s always great advice, especially for someone looking to learn and improve, to surround yourself with people who are better than you. Not only do you learn new skills from them but they also elevate your game. However, it’s hard not compare yourself to them which can have a detrimental effect. In 2020 I hope to acknowledge that personal flaw and try and just get back out and shoot more.

Now on to the 12 images that stood out to me the most.

 

#1 – Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia

At the beginning of the year I took a brief trip back east to visit with a good friend. On my final day in Philadelphia I swung by the Mt. Moriah Cemetery on my way to the airport. This cemetery has been neglected for some time now, although more recently a group of volunteers have begun to release it from nature’s grip. My partner and I love photographing places like this so I made sure to allow for a few hours to explore and take some photos.

I grabbed my tripod and wandered around this cemetery on that cold and dreary winter day. The weather set the stage for a very unique experience. Although I blew out the highlights in the snow on this fallen marker I love how this shot was taken looking through the vines. In all I probably spent about two hours and came away with just over a dozen unique images.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/5.6, 1/40sec, 180mm, ISO 100, on tripod

#2 – Five Points, Denver

The Rossonian is a building on the north side of downtown Denver that I have photographed several times. Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, George Shearing, and Dinah Washington stayed at the hotel and entertained in the Rossonian Lounge. It’s unique shape and placement in the intersection is a welcome change to the regular grid of streets. The encroachment of modern Denver on this historic landmark adds to the composition.

I had to set up my tripod in the intersection timing photographs between cars and the train all while battling the frigid temperatures. As a result I didn’t notice the lens flare until I got back home.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/16, 8sec, 42mm, ISO 200, on tripod

#3 – Light Pillars

Part of being a successful photographer is having your camera with you and being in the right place at the right time. That was the case in 2018 when I captured the snake eating the fish. This year I was heading out to the store on a cold and clear February night when I was confused by these strange lights in the sky.

Luckily I was close to home because this time I didn’t have my camera with me. I swung back home, grabbed my camera and tripod and set up out in the middle of the park to capture a unique phenomenon called light pillars. I was even lucky enough to have my photo featured on the local news the next day.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/8, 30sec, 32mm, ISO 100, on tripod

#4 – Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

While my partner was traveling in Vietnam I headed up to RMNP to go snowshoeing and take some photos. Dream Lake is an easy hike from the Bear Lake trail head. The detail in the ice on the lake and the jagged peaks that rise in the distance required that I try a new technique called focus stacking.

Focus stacking is a composite made from several images focused at different distances in order to create a single image where everything is in focus, front to back. In the past I had taken a series of images with the intent of stacking them later on the computer but this was the first time I actually did it. I lost detail in the deep shadows but overall it was a fairly successful exercise.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/11, 1/60sec, 28mm, ISO 100, multiple images stacked, on tripod

#5 – Bomb Cyclone

In March we had a very unique meteorological phenomenon called a Bomb Cyclone. Appropriately, everything shut down in preparation for the cold and snowy conditions. Naturally I thought this would be a great opportunity for photography. At lunch, in the middle of the storm I headed out on the empty streets. A few inches had already built up on the roads, which in itself was not a problem, but the blowing snow really made visibility tough.

I headed to a local field that wasn’t too far away but I knew would have some randomly and sparsely growing trees with this image in mind. This image really conveys the conditions that day which is why I love it. It’s a unique photo that most people would not have captured.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/7.1, 1/200sec, 36mm, ISO 100, handheld

#6 – Bokeh fireworks

Fireworks are always fun to shoot. I like to just point my camera up with my remote trigger in my hand and fire away. Only peaking at the shots periodically allows me to enjoy the show while capturing images. This time I added something else to the mix. While taking long exposure shots with my 50mm prime lens I rotated the focal ring during the exposure. This changed the effect of the bokeh on the image while the long exposure continued to capture the fireworks.

It’s a very creative technique which is why I like it. Normally I like to be very precise in my settings and compositions but in this case it just requires you to keep trying and with a little luck you come home with some pretty cool shots.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D, f/4, 2sec, 50mm, ISO 100, on tripod

#7 – Bluebird

A long time ago, when my brother joined his girlfriend and her family to their hunting cabin he told me how they don’t really go hunting they just take their guns for a walk. So on a Saturday night when I was home alone I decide to take my camera for walk. I hopped around to different locations in downtown Denver. Ultimately, I ended up on East Colfax at the Bluebird.

I took this photo and was very happy with how it turned out. A few weeks later I returned to the same spot and couldn’t figure out why the shot didn’t come out as nicely as this one. What I realized is that the street light right in front of the Bluebird marquee had been replaced. It was also nicely vacant on the night I took this picture. Normally there’s a long line of concert goers.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D, f/5, 1/50sec, 50mm, ISO 1250, on tripod (I think)

#8 – Light painting

This image is one of dozens of photos that I took while my son and my niece and nephew were dancing around in the dark with a dollar store light-up sword. We had so much fun with this. I had the camera set up on a tripod and the kids would run in front of the camera waving this sword in the air. Then they would run over to me and look at the back of the camera to see what design they had created.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/5.6, 2.5sec, 45mm, ISO 1000, on tripod

#9 – Wildflowers and bees

While my partner and I were waiting to pick up his dog from the vet after an unfortunate accident hiking we checked out this local wildflower garden in Evergreen, CO. The flowers were in full bloom and the bees were hard at work. Previously I had learned a bit more about my lens and knew that it was much sharper at f/7.1 or higher. Knowing this I kept the aperture slightly smaller rather than going for a wide open shot. It’s commonly reported that lenses are sharpest a few stops down from wide open but sometimes you have to learn this first hand for it to really sink in. As a result the bumble bee in this photo is about as sharp as I’ve ever seen any subject with this lens. I think it was achieved with a combination of proper camera settings and nailing the focus.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/7.1, 1/320sec, 250mm, ISO 500, handheld

#10 – Marcellina Mountain

Every fall my partner and I head up to the mountains to check out the fall colors. This year we returned to Kebler Pass outside of Crested Butte. It’s famous for its aspens and general beautiful scenery. I like this photo because of the colorful foreground, the unique texture of Marcellina Mountain in the distance and the interesting clouds in the sky. It could have been improved by more foreground but there were a number of vehicles that I had to cut out of the scene.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/11, 1/250sec, 68mm, ISO 400, on tripod

#11 – Macro aspen leaf

On that same trip to the mountains I pulled out one of my extension tubes and a spray bottle to create some interesting macro shots. At one of our Lone Tree Photo Club meetings other members joked about how they just love a good spray bottle.

At the time I was drawn to the less common red aspen leaves. I found a spot in bright sunlight, sprayed the leave with water to create some water droplets and positioned the camera on a tripod with the 20mm extension tube and my 28-300mm lens. By adjusting the position of the leaf I was able to really catch the light in the water droplets so they glistened like gems.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/7.1, 1/320sec, 300mm, ISO 100, on tripod

#12 – Art in Chaos

Toward the end of the year I started to realize that I was second guessing myself too much when I was even considering to go out and shoot. I was building a wall in my mind between myself and my photography. This was one of the times where I was aware of this and forced myself to pick up my camera and just get out – take my camera for walk, as I previously did in the summer. It was pretty outside with the new snow but I went out without any preconceived notion of what I was after.

I took this photo only a few minutes after leaving my house. It’s a great example of how less is more. The overall scene was very pretty but zooming in on this one tree creates a much more interesting image. While it has a lot going on it is only made up of small branches supporting the newly fallen snow with three larger trunks crossing all the chaos.

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Nikon D750, Nikkor 28-300mm, f/8, 1/200sec, 190mm, ISO 720, handheld

In the year to come I’m going to try and remember that Picasso created over 50,000 works of art yet only about 100 are considered masterpieces. I’m going to try and just take more photos without the expectations. I’m never going to get out of this slump or rut or whatever it is by leaving my camera in my bag and only taking it out when I’m certain of a great photo. I need to just get out and shoot.